Rhonda Longworth Named Provost

Well, “EMU names Rhonda Longworth new provost,” though a more accurate headline to that Detroit News article might be something along the lines of “Longworth continues as provost” since she’s been in the interim role for over a year now. A few weeks ago, I blogged about the four finalists coming to campus. Here’s what I wrote about Longworth then:

It was probably inevitable that Longworth would be in the mix since she’s been in the interim position for a while now– not to mention the fact she’s had other administrative positions in Welch Hall in recent years. I don’t know what her chances are of getting the job, but quite frankly, I hope the committee and the president give one of these other folks a chance. I don’t really know Rhonda as a person that well, but I’ve always had pleasant small-talk exchanges with her, so this is nothing personal from my point of view. But for better or worse, she’s been the point person on both this equivalency mess and the controversial “Academic Partners” agreement. So if she gets the job, then I think it means that the powers that be must think that everything at EMU is just hunky-dory– a “stay the course” hire, if you will. And to be honest, I think that would send a pretty bad signal.

So now I guess we’ll have to see how this works out and if anything changes now that Longworth gets to cross “interim” off of her business card. I’m not optimistic.

As I understand it, the “Academic Partners” thing is the subject of a grievance the EMU-AAUP is pursuing right now. But for me, the more pressing issue is the equivalency mess. I had a tiny bit of hope a new provost would take a look at what Longworth and former EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller wrought and put the brakes on implementing this in the fall. Now it’s probably going to be full speed ahead. And it’s not going to at all pretty– at least not in my department.

First, you can’t add threes and fours together and get to twelve: that is, 3+3+3+3 = 12, 4+4+4 = 12, but 3+4+3 or whatever combination of threes and fours ≠ 12. Go figure that a bunch of English professors have noticed this mathematic fact but the business and science people who were at the table to craft this equivalency deal didn’t figured this out. Further complicating the issue is faculty cannot be scheduled for more than twelve credits in a semester because that would mean that person would be teaching an overload, which means additional pay (and of course EMU doesn’t want to do that).

Anyway, what this means in our department is we are inevitably going to have a fair number of faculty scheduled for 10 or 11 hours because there are courses that are going to be worth three and courses that are going to be worth four. In my mind, that means that anyone who is schedule to teach 12 (with the approved equivalencies), has a grievable complaint against the department head for every faculty member scheduled to teach less than 12 simply because it’s not a fair and balanced teaching load across all faculty. In my department, I think this could result in hundreds of grievances.

The other problem that’s emerging (at least in our department) has to do with reassigned time to do quasi-administrative work. English is a large department and there’s really no way that one official administrator– our department head– can do all the various administrative things that need to be done. So what we do is grant release time to some faculty to be program coordinators to take on some of this quasi-administrative work. I’ve done this before and I was getting ready to do this again for the Written Communication program. The work involves a lot of recruiting and advising (particularly with graduate students), more meetings, more paperwork, more responsibility, etc. What this has meant is program coordinators teach two instead of three courses a semester. I’m pretty sure there are similar arrangements in other departments at EMU, particularly larger departments.

Well, based on the way things are moving right now, this arrangement is potentially going to go away: that is, because of the ways these equivalencies might or might not be applied, the reassigned time of being a program coordinator might not be enough to continue what has been the practice for decades in our department. Given that there is no contractual obligation for faculty to step up to be program coordinators (this is an internal arrangement in departments), reducing the release time dramatically reduces the reasons why anyone would volunteer to be the program coordinator. In theory, all of the quasi-administrative work being done by the coordinators– and there are I think eight faculty in my department who are coordinators right now– I assume would fall on the desk of the department head.

Oh, and let’s not forget the first year writing program. There’s a director of that program who is on a half-time release from teaching and an associate director (that’s me right now) on a third-time release from teaching to do all of the things that need to be done to run a large first year writing program. Depending on how this plays out, that’s all in jeopardy right now.

So yeah, Longworth being named Provost– while perhaps inevitable– doesn’t exactly make me optimistic that this equivalency mess is going to be solved anytime soon.